We hear the descriptions ‘Fair Trade’ and ‘organic’ applied to coffees a lot these days. But what do they actually signify?
Fair Trade Coffee
Coffee harvesting is a labor-intensive job that often yields low financial returns for the world’s 25 million coffee farmers. Because coffee plants can take years to bear fruit, farmers find it difficult to respond quickly to rapidly changing market prices, forcing them to sell at rates that barely represent a living wage.
Fair Trade is an alternative to standard coffee markets. Through Fair Trade certification, coffee farmers receive a minimum price for their yield that covers the costs of sustainable production, an additional Fair Trade Premium, and basically allows them to improve their standard of living.
The international standards for certifying a coffee as Fair Trade include:
● The producers are organized into self-governing cooperatives, with decision-making being democratic and all members having equal voting rights.
● Environmental standards are in place that promote sustainable agriculture and restricts agrochemical use.
● Cooperatives are provided with pre-harvest lines of credit if requested, with a value of up to 60% of the purchase price.
For a coffee to be certified as organic in the United States, it must be produced in an environment and under conditions that meet the U.S. standards for organic production. It also needs to be certified by an agency accredited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Requirements for organic coffee production include:
● No use of synthetic pesticides and other prohibited substances for three years.
● Fertilizer must be 100% organic.
● A sustainable crop rotation plan is implemented to preserve soil nutrients, prevent erosion, and safely control pests.
When you buy Fair Trade and Organic Coffees, you’re brewing in support of a cause: the dignity of coffee growers, the preservation of the environment, and even your own health.